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The Women & Horses Newsletter - July 2002
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         Women and Horses Newsletter, July 2002
This newsletter is only sent to those who signed up for it at
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              ~~~~~~~From Mary D. Midkiff~~~~~~~

     1. It's Horse Show Season - Are you and your horse  
        meant to compete?
     2. I would love to hear your opinions
1. It's Horse Show Season - Are you and your horse meant to

Summertime is upon us and so are the horse shows.  Every weekend
from now through November is booked solid with gymkhanas, pony 
club rallies, hunter and jumper events, cutting horse 
competitions, western pleasure classes, team pennings, saddle 
horse shows, horse trials, endurance races and dressage tests.

The pressure is on to perform, meet schedules, mail in entries, 
chase valuable points, load and unload, groom and polish, dress
and undress, sign checks, book hotels, arrange for dog sitters, 
and on and on.

I'm wondering if you are still loving your horse.  Your horse is
your partner through all this chaos, and you expect him to fit 
into the plan no matter what.  Is your stress going to cost you 
in your relationship with this special friend?  Are you thinking
about his or her welfare first, or even on the same level as 
yours?  Is the competition all about you?  Is your horse just an
extension and reflection of your own ego and self-image?

Too many times I see horses pushed to show a day after they have
colicked or asked to jump when they simply don't have another 
jump left in them.  Do you give your partner all of the 
physical, mental and spiritual support he or she needs to thrive
during this stressful season?  Do you still have room for 
enjoyable and relaxing times together?

Step back and think about these questions.  Showing and 
performing can be truly fun and rewarding, or it can lead to the
demise of a relationship and a horse being put up for sale.

Not every horse and every rider combination is destined to be a
competitor.  Perhaps competition on a circuit is something you 
and your horse handle well, or maybe just an occasional show 
would work out better.  Some horses and some people are very 
competitive and enjoy hard work with a goal; they're lucky to 
have found each other.  Others do it because they have to or 
because it is expected but aren't necessarily cut out for the
pressure.  That can apply to rider, horse or both. 

One of the best places to study the competitive horse is on the
racetrack.  Thoroughbreds, Arabians, Standardbreds and Running 
QuarterHorses are bred to race.  Their conformation is designed
to generate speed over a distance.  In the case of the Thorough-
bred there are 35,000 foals born each year.  Only a fraction of 
these foals will make it to their first start and even fewer 
will consistently make money and be competitive on a decent 
level.  Some racehorses clearly demonstrate their love for their
work, a disposition that can show through despite uneven human 
handling and training.  These select animals go on to race 
successfully and enjoy the sport and the competition, while 
others may pin their ears and wish they were somewhere else.

It's the same in the show ring.  Some horses enjoy getting out
and working everyday.  They look forward to a challenge, love 
the attention of the crowd and rise to perform.  Their 
conformation suits their job; they remain sound in body and 
mind.  And they enjoy pleasing their human partners.

Then there are others that are fixed, fussed, medicated or held
together in some fashion to do a job they are not particularly 
well suited for and don't much enjoy.  These are the horses that
can end up on the trash heap of life after being misunderstood, 
or pushed too hard too fast.  They may be ill-suited to their 
work, irregular in their performance, unsound, dangerous, unsafe
or any combination thereof.  In these situations, if we humans
continue to try and fit a round peg into a square hole, the 
horse will most likely suffer the consequences.

Take a breath, look at your relationship with your horse, and 
try to be flexible.  Since most of us don't have the resources 
to have a barn full of horses to choose from each weekend, 
let's focus on the most common situation:  having one horse and 
a rider who wants to perform.  The weekend is planned for 
several months in advance, so your hopes are high and your 
expectations set.  How do you get from here (the preparation) to
there (the competition)?  As you go through training on a 
day-to-day basis, make sure you add in hacks or trail riding or
just hanging out with your horse in a pasture.  Make sure he 
gets plenty of "horse time" and can graze and be a part of a 
herd.  If that's not possible, then you have to become his herd
and try to spend some additional time with him, maybe reading a 
book or cleaning your tack in his stall while he munches hay.  
If you can't get him out to graze, pick grass and bring it to 
him.  Stroke his hard working legs and give him a massage, 
releasing those good-feeling endorphins.  Most of all, take some
extra time to be a good companion.

I love to hear people talking to their horses, at home and at 
the show.  Horses listen and tune in to us.  They know the 
feelings behind what you are saying, and the rhythms of your 
voice can do wonders for their sense of well-being.  I like to 
discuss my plans out loud with my horse and see how she feels 
about them.  If nothing else, it's cathartic for me to hear 
myself talk about our schedule of events.  Sometimes, when you
actually verbalize your plans, you'll hear when something 
doesn't make sense and requires a change of course or schedule.    

Also, think about what you might lose if something goes amiss.  
Whether it's missing one show or a whole season, what's the 
consequence?  For me, the loss of one or even many show dates is
insignificant, because I still have my partner and we'll still
do things together.  For others of a more ambitious nature who 
are driven to compete, it may be a significant negative.  
Remember, you are not losing your horse.  You just are losing 
the ability to show him.  Losing the ability to compete is 
disappointing and disheartening when you have big plans and have
put multiple hours and dollars into it.  But in the larger 
scheme of things and your life in general, it doesn't mean much.
The mental, physical and spiritual welfare of you and your 
horse is the foundation of a successful relationship, not the
blue ribbons or trophies collecting dust in your tack room.

When you feel the need to compete -- it's in your nature -- but 
your horse isn't ready, or is injured, or needs some time off, 
then pick another outlet for yourself.  Run road races, cycle,
swim, hike mountains or hills in personal record time, play 
tennis or golf.  In other words, find something to fulfill your
competitive needs while your horse takes the time necessary to 
get ready.  If you were a professional ice dancer and your 
partner told you he or she was temporarily unable to compete, 
what would you do?  Consider your options and give your horse 
partner the benefit of the doubt - and time.

Your horse deserves your love, respect and compassion.  Enjoy 
the summer together, however it shapes up.

2. I would love to hear your opinions

I'm considering creating and selling packages of *She Flies 
Without Wings* notecards featuring illustrations and quotes from
the book. I would love to hear your opinions about this idea, as
well as any suggestions you might have. Please email me at: 
mailto:mmidkiff@womenandhorses.com. Thank you!
           Women have a special magic with horses...
Equestrian Resources, Inc.
PO Box 20187
Boulder, CO 80308
Phone 303-544-0333 | Fax 303-544-0331
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